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S.W.A.T.'s back on a network that's already persuaded viewers to have seconds of Hawaii Five-0 and Macgyver


Plays a cop on TV, otherwise isn’t one. S.W.A.T. star Shemar Moore walks the CBS red carpet during TV Critics Association “press tour.” Photo: Ed Bark

Premiering: Thursday, Nov. 2nd at 9 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: Shemar Moore, Stephanie Sigman, Alex Russell, Jay Harrington, Kenny Johnson, Lina Esco, David Lim, Peter Onorati
Produced by Aaron Thomas, Shawn Ryan, Justin Lin, Neal Moritz, Marney Hochman, Danielle Woodrow, Pavun Shetty

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Shoot first and pick up the pieces later -- or not.

That’s the way CBS’ S.W.A.T. reboot is gonna roll as a likely sure-bet vehicle for former longtime Criminal Minds co-star Shemar Moore.

Last fall, the reigning No. 1 network in total viewers sprung Michael Weatherly from NCIS and made him the main man in Bull, now an established hit. Moore has the brawn and the presence to likewise make a new mark for himself in this throwback action hour of screeching tires, full-out firefights and latter day preachments tailored to today’s law enforcement challenges. Not that there’s an abundance of either consistency or continuity in the first four episodes made available for review.

Thursday’s opener is built around ramifications from the unintended wounding of an innocent black teenager during hot pursuit of a passel of crooks. Episode 3 begins with the chainsaw rock-themed raid of a heroin-dealing gang operating out of a rented Airbnb. The S.W.A.T. team mows down the minimally armed crooks -- and lays waste to the Airbnb -- with withering automatic weapons fire. In this case there are no questions asked -- before or after.

Moore is front and center throughout as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, the role played by the late Steve Forrest in ABC’s 1975 first-timer before Samuel L. Jackson reprised it in a 2003 feature film. You can count on Hondo’s mini-sermons, no-nonsense directives and finely toned physique, whether he’s punching the heavy bag or bedding his boss lady, Capt. Jessica Cortez (Stephanie Sigman) during their clandestine “off the books” trysts.

Hard-charging rookie Jim Street (Alex Russell) also returns to flaunt authority, along with lesser known team members David “Deke” Kay (Jay Harrington) and Dominique Luca (Kenny Johnson) -- who used be just Dominic. Added is Christina “Chris” Alonso (Lina Esco), whose initial stand-offish relationship with the cocky Street looks destined to explore new avenues.

Otherwise it’s something of a jumble for viewers who might wonder what happened to some of the other S.W.A.T. characters.

Peter Onorati, the former Cop Rock leading man (and Jack Pearson’s recurring lousy father on NBC’s This Is Us) is listed as a series regular in CBS publicity materials. He’s very much a part of the first two episodes, as a condescending rival S.W.A.T. unit head named Jeff Mumford. But hours three and four find him vanishing altogether without explanation.

Hondo’s team at first includes Victor Tan (David Lim), who has comparatively little to do in the first three episodes before entirely disappearing in the fourth. CBS says that Lim belatedly was signed as a series regular, but this doesn’t help those who might wonder where his character went.

There’s also prototypical LAPD chief Robert Hicks (Patrick St. Esprit), another thorn in Hondo’s side during the initial two episodes before going unseen in the third hour and then popping back up for the fourth. Is this S.W.A.T. or a game of Whac-A-Mole? Just asking.

Oh well, S.W.A.T. at least is consistently heavy-handed in both its law enforcement and dialogue. But Moore’s manly Hondo manages to affix a straight and stern face while telling his new team member in the premiere episode, “Lesson One, Street. Never be in a hurry to die.”

And in Episode 2: “Cut the lone wolf crap. S.W.A.T.’s strength is in the pack. You wanna be a hot dog, get a job at Pink’s.”

The entire team chants “Fill the gaps. Stay liquid” in Episode 3 before firing away at those heroin dealers. And wouldn’t you know it, a festive, poolside barbecue, where Hondo is deeply honored by a “Jackass of the Year” trophy, is rudely interrupted by a call to arms after a building is blown up in Episode 4.

During these first four hours, Hondo also shoots with pinpoint accuracy while standing majestically in a helicopter; makes a successful flying tackle of a bad guy on a runaway motorcycle; cooks up a batch of his “famous gumbo” for a terrorized family and strengthens his inner city ties with visits to a beauty parlor and an old Muslim friend/informant whose convenience store has been damaged by a brick-throwing knuckle dragger.

The old S.W.A.T theme song, which rose to No. 1 on the pop charts in 1975, can still be heard fleetingly in the CBS version. Moore cuts an imposing figure, some of the action scenes are solidly choreographed and justice again is served simply and unadorned, like a basic Banquet TV dinner. Are there still enough viewers with an appetite for that? Probably -- particularly on a network that still prides itself on knowing what its core audience likes. In that context, look for this one to last considerably longer than the 37-episode duration of its ABC predecessor.


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